It was only a few short years ago when learning online was looked at some by business people and academics as an unacceptable shortcut to gaining true knowledge or earning an official degree.
Today, as online learning as become more accepted (and more people sign up for college courses, either accredited or non-accredited) cyber education has finally come into its own.
Of course, to say that the Internet continues to create a virtual revolution in education would be a definite understatement -- as free college classes from such institutions as Harvard and MIT -- have become available online for those who are naturally curious about a certain topic or who always wanted to (at least, virtually) attend an ivy league college.
And, it doesn't stop there. Sites like Coursera.com and Open Education Database provide convenient browsing for thousands of educational opportunities from over 100 like institutions such Princeton, Stanford or John Hopkins, for example, providing the uninitiated with a great way to test the waters, or to see if free online courses spark further interest in attaining a bona-fide bachelor's or master's degree
Surprisingly, there are no fees and no admissions for open classes from these world class instiutions -- BUT they also do not provide any college credit to add to your resume or school transcript.
So if your sole interest in online college courses is aimed at increasing your earning power then you'll want to look at a degree from an accredited college.
Getting an online degree
Although much more flexible in many respects, attaining your online degree is not going to be easy, and the hardest part, it seems, is choosing the college program that best fits your interests or career goals.
Average cost for an online degree? It varies greatly and prices may range from $3,000 to $35,000 depending on the school and type of degree.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you spend your hard-earned money embarking on any online course of study that may or may not lead to a bona-fide degree:
What's the schools reputation? Although online education has come a long way in recent years, there are still a lot of fraudulent online colleges and diploma mills out there. Take care to sort out quality programs from less rigorous ones that are not worth your time or effort.
Is the program accredited? Many for-profit online colleges are non-accredited institutions offering college credits that have little value in the real world. No matter how hard you work or how many credits you accrue, a future hiring manager will not be impressed by a resume that boasts a non-accredited course of study.
Remember, also, that not all accreditation is equal. There are colleges that offer regional accreditation and national accreditation. Then there is specialized accreditation within varying professional fields (The American Bar Association accredits law school programs, for example.) Ultimately, regional accreditation remains the most widely accepted form of accreditation at online and traditional universities.
Have I completed all my homework? Even if you find the best accredited program that promises to enrich your life and further your career, it's always a good idea to get feedback and reviews at Internet sites like GetEducated.com.
Once you've committed to a course, it's much the same as attending a brick-and-mortar college. Especially if you're already holding down a full-time job, it's the same self-discipline and time-management skills that will be necessary, but with all the convenience of learning from home. Good luck!